The Annual Must: Salon du Chocolat in Paris
When October rolls around, you may be thinking Halloween and candy corn, pumpkins, falling leaves or a colorful Indian summer. Me ? I’m thinking chocolate. Nothing out of the ordinary, but this time, chocolate in Paris. It was my annual pilgrimage to the Salon du Chocolat, a chocolate fair like no other, in its 17th year. Time for a round-up of my favorite tastes at the show… If you were there, be sure to share yours too !
I recently revealed a slight penchant (ok, obsession) for salted butter caramel on the radio with Peter Greenberg (listen to the podcast here) and there was plenty of that to go around at the Salon. Where to begin ? With my ultimate favorite, the Atlantique from Franck Kestener, but of course. You’ve seen this bar before, here and here, dark chocolate with layers of crisp, buttery shortbread and thick caramel with sea salt. You’ll see him below holding two bars in his hands; only they didn’t quite last two days in my own. At least I have confirmed that it remains my favorite bar. Now to get back to Paris to buy more than just two…
More of this irresistible salty sweet combination showed up in Sébastien Bouillet’s Maca’Lyons, Arnaud Larher‘s Chocomac’ and Benoit Chocolats’ Caramandes (all with fun names and all with orange packaging !). Le Maca’Lyon is a salted butter caramel macaron dipped in dark chocolate (a macaron flavor that Christophe Roussel also does brilliantly), while the Chocomac’ is a small chocolate in the shape of a macaron. They are filled with different flavored caramel, including one with fleur de sel and another with raspberry and balsamic vinegar. Caramandes, Benoit’s specialty, are triangles of sliced almonds, salted butter caramel and dark chocolate. They reminded me of my matzoh buttercrunch – equally addictive.
Patrice Chapon often wins my vote for best packaging, his bars, boxes and aprons always beautifully designed (below, top right). As are François Pralus‘ products, his signature rainbow stripes almost as recognizable as those of Paul Smith, and whose pyramids (below, bottom right) remain a must for chocolate connoisseurs. And let’s not forget his decadent bright pink Praluline, which always draws crowds at their booth. New to me this year was Sabadì, Cioccolato di Modica from Sicily, whose cute cartoon drawings on the packaging caught my eye, as did Jacques Bockel‘s whimsical chocolate pencils.
Bockel made my “Top 10 Stands Not to Miss” in 2008 for his almond praliné with fleur de sel and again in 2010 for his fig cinnamon nougat. I just recently tasted a bar of his that simply blew me away, the Pralin. I quickly devoured it, amazed, with big eyes, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. A super rich milk chocolate bar filled with gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut paste), fleur de sel from Camargue and slivered almonds that were roasted in olive oil. Wow.
What else was at this year’s Salon du Chocolat ? Macarons, cupcakes and marshmallows galore. Chocolate with herbs, spices, flowers, alcohol or even pop rocks. And lots of smiling artisans, excited to talk about their products, their background or even what’s to come in the future… That’s Aline Géhant below, from Avignon, who was awarded “Young Talent” of the Salon this year. Not only did she bring to Paris her delicate ganaches made with passion fruit, mango or honey, but also, as she put it, the sun and colors of her native Provence.
Last but certainly not least, I was pleasantly surprised to see many more Swiss brands at the show this year. Favarger from Geneva with their signature Avelines and Nougalines; Beschle from Basel, with their full line of bars, including my personal favorite with pistachios and fleur de sel; La Cuillère Suisse, whose chocolate spoons are not only fantastic for making hot chocolate, but serve as lollipops too; Kambly, in the cookie business for over 100 years now; and Philippe Pascoët from Geneva, whose chocolates I first discovered at the Salon du Chocolat in 2009, using ingredients ranging from absinthe to verbena.
And a bonus: back stage with the models getting ready for a truly unique fashion show… Chocolate dresses not just for display on mannequins, but for the runway !
Every year, talented designers are matched with chocolatiers (see this year’s list), who collaborate on a dress (and often accessories too) that is indeed all real chocolate. The creations are simply outrageous and the fashion show just wild ! Watch the 2011 Chocolate Fashion Show here !